Break Through Your Front Line to Understand Customer Needs

By Rhen Wilson

To understand your customers’ needs, sometimes the fastest, simplest way is to extract the information from the front line of your business.

The sales and service teams are the front line for all businesses. These employees have a unique role in that they speak to customers almost every day. They get to know them, build rapport, develop relationships, understand their customers’ needs. They often get holiday cards from their customers, and it’s not unheard of for a client to invite their account rep to their wedding.

This should surprise no one. When you work so closely with another person, it’s inevitable that the professional and personal lines are blurred and authentic relationships emerge.

Of course, there are business benefits to this. The more ingratiated a salesperson is with their customers, the better shot they have at closing the deal. Likewise, the service employees are often the best at upselling or cross-selling their clients. At the end of the fiscal year, the service rep is more often than not a crucial component of the client’s equation for renewing a contract.

This may work well for our sales and service employees, but this system is not sustainable for businesses looking to scale and grow.

While the sales and service teams leverage this in-depth knowledge of their customers to increase revenue, the rest of the company often remains woefully ignorant. Not to say that marketers and managers have no clue who their audience is. Ask them, and they’ll whip out their socio-economic and demographic data to prove they know their customers. After all, who doesn’t think of their best friends in terms of age brackets and income profiles?

Oh right. No one thinks like that about their friends. That’s because your friends are real people. With real needs, desires, goals, and challenges. You know…a personality.

Today’s businesses can’t allow this in-depth, emotion-driven understanding of their clients to remain locked away in one department. Worse yet, they can’t allow this information to remain locked inside an individual or small group of individual’s heads.

Successful businesses understand the impact this level of insight can have on their bottom line. It can impact messaging, product development, pricing, category expansion, and so many other facets of a business’s strategy.

How do businesses codify this information and turn it into a useful tool? How can businesses holistically understand customer needs and wants?

I’m talking of course about the development of buyer personas. It’s something I’ve been working with businesses on for a while now.

If you’re investing in true persona development, well done. You’re giving your business the tools it needs to truly connect with your buyers throughout your organization. I’d love to hear what you’re doing.

If you’re not, though, and you’re still poring over spreadsheets filled with demographic and economic segmentation, it’s time to rethink your strategy.